Master Chief Petty Officer Carl Brashear, MDV, USN, Ret.

BMCM (MDV) Carl M. Brashear, USN, Ret.

Note: Carl Brashear's life as the Navy's first African/American Deep Sea Diver is now a movie, 'Men of Honor', starring Cuba Gooding as Carl, and Robert DeNiro as Master Chief Billy Sunday, MDV, USN (no such person existed).

Carl Brashear grew up on a farm in Kentucky as part of sharecropper's family. After being educated in small segregated schools, he enlisted in the Navy in 1948 and underwent recruit training at Great Lakes, Illinois. After initial duty as a steward, he began handling aircraft for squadron VX-1 at Key West, Florida, and was subsequently rated as a boatswain's mate. He served in the escort carriers Palau (CVE-122) and Tripoli (CVE-64) and began taking training in salvage diving. Other duties were in USS Opportune (ARS-41); Naval Air Station Quonset Point, where he escorted President Dwight Eisenhower; Ship Repair Facility Guam; Deep-Sea Diving School; the submarine tender Nereus (AS-17), and Fleet Training Center Pearl Harbor. He also had temporary duty with Joint Task Force Eight for nuclear tests in the Pacific. He served in the USS Coucal (ASR-8), USS Shakori (ATF-162), and USS Hoist (ARS-40).

While on board the latter in 1966 for the recovery of a nuclear weapon off Spain, Brashear was badly injured in an accident; as a result, surgeons amputated his left leg below the knee. He refused to submit to medical survey boards attempting to retire him as unfit for duty.

After demonstrating that he could still dive and perform his other duties, he served in Harbor Clearance Unit 2, Naval Air Station Norfolk, Experimental Diving Unit, submarine tender Hunley (AS-31); USS Recovery (ARS-43), Naval Safety Center, and Shore Intermediate Maintenance Activity Norfolk. In 1970 he qualified as the first black master diver in the history of the U.S. Navy.

Master Chief Brashear's memoir also includes material on his post-retirement employment and a candid description of his treatment in the Navy's alcohol rehabilitation program.

Back to Steve's page